1. Building a Flowchart with Shapes and Lines


Become proficient in inserting and manipulating shapes in Word by learning how to build a flowchart.


Lesson Goal

Clearly demonstrate a process with a Word flowchart.

What is a Flowchart?

When you have a complex process or set of actions, a flowchart can clearly demonstrate this using a series of shapes and arrows.

Each shape describes a specific type of step. In this lesson, we cover the three most basic types of steps:

  • Process
    • A generic step
    • Rectangle Shaped
  • Decision
    • A step with multiple outcomes
    • Diamond Shaped
  • Terminator
    • Represents the start and end of the flowchart
    • Pill shaped

Creating Flowcharts in Word

Flowcharts are a type of Word Shape. The Shape command is in the Insert tab on the Ribbon.

From the Shapes dropdown, there’s a subsection containing Flowchart shapes. Hover over these shapes to reveal the shape’s function in a flowchart.

But before inserting these shapes, ensure you insert a drawing canvas. This makes it easier to select multiple shapes and to connect shapes with arrows.

When you select a shape, you access the Format tab under Drawing tools. From here you can change the shape and add formatting themes.

To connect steps, select an arrow from the Insert Shapes box and hover over a step. Click the grey node at one of the slides and drag to another node. These connections are dynamic. If you move a step, the arrow will move to ensure the connection is kept


We'll start this course by demonstrating how simple shapes can effectively convey complex information. In this lesson, we'll use Word Shapes and Lines to build a flowchart. A flowchart maps out a sequence of steps and processes, using simple shapes, lines and arrows.

Flowcharts are very flexible. They can describe a simple linear process, or a complex process with multiple branching paths. They use different shapes and colors to differentiate the types of steps.

For example, a rectangle represents an action, and a diamond represents a decision.

Note that there is a universal standard for flowcharts. For example, a rectangle represents an action, a diamond represents a decision, and a pear-shaped terminator represents the start or end.

We're now ready to build a flowchart in the case study document.

On page three, we can see a very rudimentary looking flowchart. It uses a typical flowchart structure, so we can re-create it.

We'll replace the lines with arrows.

The words dog and not dog, are not actually steps of their own, they just describe the arrows.

We'll use text boxes to replace those.

Finally, we'll use shapes to replace the six steps.

We'll leave the original flowchart for reference and insert a temporary page break to give us space to create an updated version.

We'll open the Insert tab on the ribbon and click the Shapes command to reveal the shapes drop-down.

Before adding any shapes, we need to insert a new drawing canvas.

A drawing canvas makes it easier to edit and connect multiple shapes.

We'll add the drawing canvas now.

We'll then navigate to the contextual Format tab, expand the Shapes drop-down and see if there's a category for flowchart shapes.

When we hover over any individual shape, we get a tooltip displaying the function of the shape.

We'll start by selecting a rectangle which represents a single action or process instead of inserting a shape with a default size we're prompted to draw the shape.

However, we want all the shapes in our flowchart to be a consistent size.

Re-drawing rectangles to match the same size is tedious. So we'll copy this rectangle and paste until we have all six steps in the flowchart. Flowcharts run from top to bottom. So we'll stack these steps vertically.

They don't need to be perfectly aligned, as we'll fix this at a later stage.

If we look back at the original flowchart we can see that some of our new shapes are incorrect.

The second item is a decision so it should be represented by a diamond.

We'll go back to the new flowchart and select the second rectangle to change it.

We'll then navigate to the contextual Format tab.

Click Edit Shape, hover over Change Shape and choose the decision diamond in the Flowchart section.

We also need to signify the beginning and end of the flowchart with terminators.

We'll hold Control and select the first and last step and replace them with a pear-shaped terminator.

Each step now has the appropriate shape but we'll also add color to further differentiate them.

We'll select the decision, navigate to the contextual Format tab and change the style to Aqua, Accent 5.

We'll then select the terminators and change the style to Purple, Accent 4.

We'll now connect each step with arrows.

These arrows explain the relationship between the shapes and indicate the direction of the flow.

We'll navigate the Insert tab, click Shapes, select a line arrow and hover over the first step to show the connector nodes.

We want to connect to the step below, so we'll click the bottom node and drag to the top node of that step.

Next, we have a decision.

One of the outcomes skips the following step, so we'll need an arrow that can navigate around the step below.

We'll do this with an elbow arrow which includes right angle bends.

Off-camera, I'll quickly connect the rest the steps with line and elbow arrows.

Next, we'll add text boxes to describe the two choices stemming from the decision step.

The choices are simply dog and not dog.

We'll navigate to the contextual Format tab, click Draw Text Box and draw it over the first choice.

We'll type Dog inside the box, press Ctrl + E to center and changes style to Blue, Accent 1.

We'll then copy this box, paste it, place it over the other arrow and replace the text with Not Dog.

At this point, we can see that some of these steps are not properly aligned because some of the arrows aren't straight.

We'll adjust the squares by selecting one and using the arrow keys to make minor adjustments.

Once the arrow is straight, the shapes will also be perfectly aligned.

Off-camera, I'll align the rest of the steps and cut-and-paste the text from the original flowchart into the new one.

As a final step, we'll delete what's left of the old chart and remove the temporary page break.

We'll stop the lesson here.

As we've seen in this lesson, Word makes building professional flowcharts a simple task. When you're creating a flowchart, it's important to remember to abide by the universal standards so that your audience can easily understand the chart.

Building Your Document
Designing with Shapes, Pictures, and Themes


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